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I know some people who have bitten their nails down to the quick.
Others just can’t stop talking about it. It’s the buzz in most of the circles I travel.
If you were from a different country, or landed here from a different planet, you’d think you had forgotten everything you learned in“Conversational English 101”.
“When do you think we’ll hear from SCOTUS on DOMA/Prop8?”
“Will SCOTUS let Prop 8 stand but DOMA fall?”
In case you are from another country or another planet or have been living on a secluded island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, let me explain.
The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) has been deliberating two landmark cases for the LGBT community. One is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a law signed in 1996 by then President of the United States (POTUS), Bill Clinton – which restricted the federal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman.
DOMA prevents those who are in same-sex marriages from receiving a host of federal benefits, such as the ability to file a joint tax return. In the case before the court, a widow was forced to pay $363,000 in inheritance taxes after her female spouse died, a liability she would not have incurred if she'd been married to a man. A federal appeals court ruled that provision of DOMA was unconstitutional. Another provision, requiring states to recognize only opposite-sex marriages performed in other states, is not at issue here.
Proposition 8 (Prop 8) a voter referendum, is California's same-sex marriage ban that was struck down on narrow grounds by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. Should SCOTUS uphold that decision, same-sex marriages could begin again in California in mid- to-late July, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office. (San Francisco was an intervenor in the case on the plaintiff's side.)
If the court uses the case to issue a more sweeping ruling that all same-sex marriage bans are illegal, that would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. There are many in-between possibilities as well.
So, yes, anxiety is high because the stakes are high. Very high.
How high? Well, just our very lives as LGBT people who are citizens of the United States of America (USA) who pay taxes, mow our lawns, take out the trash, recycle and are, otherwise, good citizens of this country and the Universe.
So, when will we hear the decision from SCOTUS? Odds are that we will hear sometime this month (June, 2013), which ends the SCOTUS term.
When cases aren't decided by the end of the term, the protocol is to reorder for re-argument for the next term. But there hasn't been any indication in the SCOTUS blog notes that would indicate that judges are leaning in that direction.
The last Really Big case this Supreme Court ruled on was the Affordable Care Act. If you recall that was on a Thursday, not a "Super Monday" (Mondays in June—the court's busiest month—when opinion announcements are revealed are dubbed Super Mondays) which basically means that the Court decides what days it will issue opinions.
More opinions are expected this coming Thursday. So, if the Court is waiting until the last possible minute to rule, it would probably be on June 26 or 27 (a Thursday).
And if the rulings on DOMA and Prop. 8 are released that week, that timing would coincide with New York City's Gay Pride and San Francisco's Gay Pride—two of the biggest celebrations in the country and one of is a city that's directly affected by the court's Prop. 8 decision.
This is why some people refer to SCOTUS as “The Supremes” –because they seem to know more about drama than the entire combined casts of“The Young and The Restless,” and “Days of our Lives.”
Now that we are coming down to the wire, how do we survive this waiting game?
I was recently reminded by former interim director of Integrity, Harry Knox, (now CEO and ED of RCRC - Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice) of the name given to God by our sister Hagar.
In Genesis 16, Hagar flees to the desert from the abuse of her mistress, Sari, who was unable to have a child of her own and had “given”Hagar to her husband, Abram, to have a child, the one who would be named Ishmael.
Hagar is visited in the desert by an angel of the Lord who tells her to return to Sari and promises that God will “increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
Hagar gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
El Roi. The God who sees me.
We may have been invisible to the government, but God sees us. The One God who “marvelously made and even more marvelously redeemed” us has always seen us.
El Roi. The Scriptures offer us this beautiful name for God as a doorway into the soul of justice.
As we count down the days to the SCOTUS decision, I urge you to remember this prayer of Hagar: No matter what happens, God sees us.
As the arc of history bends toward justice, more and more of the face of God is revealed to us – for God has seen us and has heard our cry.
As important as the decisions of the SCOTUS is on these two issues, let us hold in mind and in our hearts the prayer of Hagar: “You are the God who sees me, for I have now seen the One who sees me.”
The Rev’d Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton has been a member of IntegrityUSA since 1977. She has served on the Board as well as legislative floor whip for two General Conventions. She was, for five years, Canon Missioner to The Oasis and is the immediate past National Convener of The Episcopal Women’s Caucus, a position she held for 10 years. She presently works as a pastoral counselor and Hospice chaplain and serves The Episcopal Church as a reader for the General Ordination Exams (GOEs) as well as the national board of RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice).